Don’t Go Breaking My Heart: The Top Four Online Dating Scams

Tips to avoid four of the biggest online dating scams: Internet ScamBusters #251

Today we focus on online dating dating scams. Although some of these scams are certainly predictable, others are less so (especially the third and fourth scams). Naturally, we offer tips to help you protect yourself from these online dating scams.

However, before we begin, you may want to spend a moment looking at this week’s most popular articles from our other sites:

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How to Handle Unauthorized Credit Card Charges: Unauthorized credit card charges can be handled in two ways — here’s the right way.

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Now, here we go…


Don’t Go Breaking My Heart: The Top Four Online Dating Scams


Could your soul mate be waiting for you somewhere out there in cyberspace? And if so, how can you avoid dating scams that might lurk there as well?

If you’ve ever been tempted to try online dating, you’re not alone. An Online Publishers Association study showed U.S. residents paid $600 million on online dating and personals in 2006, capturing the largest segment of paid content anywhere on the World Wide Web.

Online dating scams range from minor white lies to outright thievery. Here are the four most common dating scams and what you can do to avoid them.

1. Not Who You’re Supposed to Be

Just like face-to-face dating, singles online try to put their best foot forward. But online dates have the advantage of hiding behind a computer, making them seem a whole lot “dreamier” than they really are. An unpleasant surprise can often feel like — or be — a scam.

Trust your gut. If something sounds wrong — like a lawyer who says he’s 35 years old but has 25 years of professional experience — start asking questions.

If you’re concerned about the person’s age ask him/her to send a recent photo. (Realize, of course, that the “recent” picture they send may not truly be recent — or it may not even be a picture of your “date.”)

Also, protect yourself from people who might be emotionally unstable. Until you get to know your date better, conceal your personal information, agree to meet only in public and always let a friend know where you will be.

Online Dating Magazine suggests these tactics:

  1. Set up an anonymous email account from an email service. Be sure to change your account information to not give out your full name. This protects your privacy more as it’s fairly easy to get information on a person from an email address that you’ve used for years.
  2. Use your cell phone number. A person armed with your home phone number can find your home address in just a few clicks. (Scammers may be able to find your address from a cell phone number, but it is more difficult.)
  3. Drive yourself to the date destination. Your date need not know where you live until you know him better. Also, you can control when you want to end the evening.
  4. Pay half of the bill. Although this is often not an issue, it’s much safer to not have your date expect something in return for paying the bill.

2. Married On the Side

An MSNBC article found one third of men dating online are married! (We don’t know the statistics for women.)

Although it’s often very difficult to know whether or not someone is married, here are four tips to help you spot the warning signs:

  1. Your date posts an online picture that is very dark and makes it difficult to pick her out of a crowd. Most married people do not want their picture out there for everyone to see, risking the chance that someone they know could recognize them.
  2. Your date requests your phone number but doesn’t give you his in return. A married partner may call you from a phone other then a home phone, or use a blocking feature when they call.
  3. Your date calls at either very irregular or very set times. A married person would have to call at her own convenience, scheduling it around her regular life. Notice if you always have to leave a message or if your partner only returns calls after long periods of time. If your partner always calls at exactly the same time, it may be she is calling from work during a break to avoid detection by a spouse.
  4. As you become close, your date won’t reveal his last name and does not introduce you to friends or family. Married people will steer clear of contact with people they know and from conversations about their family and upbringing. Ask yourself what it may be he is trying to hide.

3. Not a Date At All – The Email Scam

Some online dating scams aren’t dates at all, but a scam to hit you up with marketing emails or other spam.

This annoying online danger usually happens when you first create your online profile and start chatting with other members. You’re asked almost instantly for your email address and are suddenly inundated with spam. You never hear from the person again.

The solution? Don’t give out your email address before you’re certain of who you’re dealing with. And then use a separate address (as we suggested above) that you can easily cancel if you start to get a lot of spam.

4. The Online Dating Shakedown

Certainly the most common serious, and perhaps the most hurtful, the shakedown is an online dating scam usually run by an overseas woman (or even more common, a man posing as a woman).

The person pretends to get to know you and like you. At some point “she” asks for money, sometimes in order to come visit you or because someone is ill. You wire the money but never hear from her again.

Fortunately, this scam is easy to avoid. Steer clear of any date that asks you to send her money.

Finally, if a person’s emails don’t seem to be following earlier conversations or contradict things that were already said, it could be your “dream date” is using a scripted seduction, copied from a previous target.

Dating scams are probably as old as civilization itself. But like all things driven down the information super highway, online dating is one way dating scams have picked up speed.

Watch for the warning signs we described above, and check out this article for more info on avoiding online dating scams.

Also, the third scam victim’s story here is a good example of the fourth online dating scam.

That’s it for today — we hope you enjoy your week!